By Paula Bernstein | Indiewire May 14, 2014 at 11:14AM
The film world is mourning the death of Malik Bendjelloul, 36, the Swedish director who rose to international fame as the filmmaker behind the Academy Award-winning documentary "Searching for Sugar Man." Documentary film directors, film festival programmers and fans publicly expressed their grief over the loss of the young talent.
The director won the Academy for Best Documentary last year for "Searching for Sugar Man," about his search for the musician Sixto Diaz Rodriguez. Bendjelloul directed, produced, edited and co-wrote the film, which initially premiered at Sundance in 2012 where it won the Audience Award. The film, which was the director's first, also won awards for Best Documentary from the DGA, PGA, WGA, BAFTA, NBR and other festivals.
When the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, it was met with
nearly universal acclaim and was quickly picked up by Sony Pictures
Classics for distribution.
When Indiewire interviewed Benjelloul at Sundance, the director couldn't believe the attention the film was receiving and was thrilled that it would finally earn Rodriguez the acclaim he deserved. "I can't actually begin to grasp the fact that this film might change his [Rodriguez's] life," he said. "Most of all, I’m happy for those people that will now listen to the album."
"We are so sad to hear of Malik Bendjelloul's passing," said Sony Pictures Classics' Michael Barker and Tom Bernard in a statement. "Our hearts go out to his family and friends. We first met Malik at the Sundance Film Festival for 'Searching for Sugar Man.' Much like Rodriguez himself, Malik was a genuine person who chased the world for stories to tell. He didn't chase fame, fortune or awards, although those accolades still found him as many others recognized his storytelling,"
British film producer Simon Chinn, who produced "Searching for Sugar Man" together with Bendjelloul, told the Associated Press that he was shocked by the sad news.
"It seems so unbelievable. I saw him two weeks ago in London. He was so full of life, hope and optimism and happiness, and looking forward to the future and future collaborations. We were talking about working together and talking about specific ideas, so the idea that he is no longer is just too hard to process," said Chinn.
On Twitter, film directors and others who knew Bendjelloul shared their memories and paid tribute to the filmmaker. Michael Moore tweeted, "He made a great film & will be missed." Director Lucy Walker ("The Crash Reel") tweeted, "Such sad news. Such a beautiful film. Life is so short and so fragile."
The Swedish director was as a child actor before becoming a reporter for Sweden's public broadcaster SVT. He later left to backpack around the world, which is how he came to discover Rodriguez's story.
"One always says it is unbelievable when a young person dies, or when anybody dies, but it is even more unbelievable with Malik," said SVT's culture chief Eva Beckman. "Malik was simply such an incredibly alive person."
We will continue to update this page as tributes continue to come in.